Book I of the Artemis Fowl series
I don’t normally enjoy fantasy books. I would probably have never read this book if it weren’t for my Grandpa and his friends. We were staying at the friends’ house for the night, while on a family trip. The older folks got to stay upstairs, while I hung out with the kids and other teenagers. The host’s kids had a fine time, telling us all about the number of snakes that they had found around the house (this being the southeastern United States, and one room being genuinely covered in bugs, the majority believed them). I was bored out of my skull, but unable to sleep from all the talk about bugs and snakes and cetera. So I went to the closest bookshelf and chose the most non-reality-based books I could see. The rest of the night and much of the next day were spent engrossed in this book (to the delight of the host teenagers, who had other plans for the weekend, and happily left me to “Artemis Fowl”). Background story aside, the title refers to the name of our main character, Artemis Fowl, a twelve year old with the brains of someone twice his age. Despite being quite mean, he is a very fun person to watch work. All sorts of plans and counter-plans unfold from his brain, and by the end of the book if you don’t like him exactly you will respect him. The fantasy comes from the part of the plot involving fairies, dwarves, centaurs, and LEPrecons (short for Lower Elements Police Reconnaissance, since these fairies all live underground). Unlike the usual fantasy story, however, everything is explained away (to a certain degree of believability) by science. For example, the fairies can stay hidden so well because they have highly advanced nuclear technology that keeps them several generations ahead of human satellites, etc. Artemis, being such a genius, has discovered them anyway, and the fairies and the genius duke it out over a truckload of gold (with a few hairy fairy beasts and karate moves thrown in for pizzazz).
On the negative side: There is some mild-to-medium toilet humor, and wizard-of-oz-type magic practiced by several kinds of fairies (I know, after “Harry Potter”, everyone is more than usually aware of magic in literature. But, like in the Oz books, it is only associated with particular species of beings, not magical powers that humans, spirits, or even some fairies, acquire. In this particular fantasy world, magic can even be put into batteries; its that close to “scientific”. Also like in the Oz world, there is a Council of fairies that can take a fairy’s powers away if certain rules are broken. There is far more emphasis on technology than magic overall, so I personally was fine with it.)
Overall: A fun book, for Christmas vacation at the relatives (or, when you truly, honestly, desperately, want a non-reality check). Highly recommended, though not for kids under five.